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Car Review: 2003 Subaru Legacy 2.5GT

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SEE ALSO: Subaru Buyer's Guide



MODEL: Subaru Legacy 2.5 GT Wagon
ENGINE: 2.5-liter H-4
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 165 hp @ 5,600 rpm/166 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 4-speed automatic with sport shift
WHEELBASE: 104.3 in.
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT: 187.4 x 68.7 x 59.6 in.

Driving the Subaru Legacy wagon - driving almost any Subaru for that matter - is like driving a refrigerator. Oh, I don't mean to suggest that the Legacy lacks for aerodynamics. In its class, it's about as aerodynamic as you can get for a wagon.

But what I am suggesting is that the Subaru has become an appliance, at least in the Northeast. Subaru builds cars that are predictable, give good, decent performance, are reliable, and do their job with a minimum of fuss and bother. That's an appliance.

But the Subaru's "appliace-icity" is also its strongest point. People buy Subarus because they know what they're going to get. They don't have to go through hours of orientation just to learn how to run the radio. The heater (and heated seats) work and are easy to understand how to make them work. And while the cars may not get second glances from pedestrians on the road, they'll generally pass those pedestrians while they're taking their big SUVs to the gas station.

The Legacy is powered by Subaru's tried and tested 2.5-liter horizontally opposed four cylinder engine. The H-4 sits low in the chassis for a lower center of gravity which helps handling a slight bit.

Actually, we did get an opportunity to drive the Legacy over some interesting roads and the handling wasn't a problem. I thoroughly enjoyed taking the Legacy over any road I could find.

The only "problem" was the engine. It's rated at 165 horsepower, which is about right for its 2.5-liter capacity. But the wagon weighs 3,500-plus pounds, and there were times when a little more power was needed. However, at these times, I just shifted the automatic transmission into sport shift mode, downshifted to a gear that would give me higher revs and more power for quick acceleration, and work my way back up through the gears until the indicator read "4."

I had to use the sport shift mode on a couple of winding roads to gain better acceleration out of some curves. I also used it on one particularly tough hill near my house that's right after a stop sign. It's better to have a stick shift on that one.

But most of the time the automatic was fine, and for most drivers it would also be fine. At no time was the slower acceleration a dangerous situation, I just wanted to go faster.

The wagon configuration is also excellent. Subaru is one of the few manufacturers who has the honesty to call a wagon a wagon, rather than a crossover vehicle or "small sport utility." It's a wagon. We had plenty of room in the back for packages from the store (my wife hit a couple of post-Christmas sales she couldn't resist). There was also a shade to pull and cover what was back there to keep them away from people who might be interested in where we shop.

Interior room for passengers was also good. In front there was no problem, and the people we put in the rear seats had no complaints.

Subaru's GT designation is new for 2003, consolidating the former Legacy GT and GT Limited models. Changes are minimal from 2002 and that's a good thing. When you have a good product, don't mess with it and ruin it.

Equipment special to the GT includes an 8-way power driver's seat, a 100-watt AM/FM/weather band stereo with an in-dash 6-disc CD changer, leather-wrapped steering wheel and alloy wheels.

The beauty of Subaru, of course, is the standard All-Wheel Drive and four-wheel independent suspension. This gives the Legacy the ability to handle most difficult road conditions, including the light snow we encountered during our test week. With four-channel ABS, we felt comfortable on all roads at all times.

The bottom line for the Subaru Legacy 2.5 GT Wagon was $27,392. This resulted from a base price of $25,695, $1,000 for the sport shift automatic transmission, $172 for a cross bar kit and a destination charge of $525. Fuel economy is listed at 20 mpg city, 26 mpg highway. We averaged 22.5 for a combination of roads, so I was pleased with that.

© 2003 The Auto Page Syndicate